A Modest Proposal

As my readers will know, I have long been interested in the question as to whether women can or cannot, should or should not, participate in ground combat. Not that I have a personal interest in the matter. If some women, driven bonkers by penis envy, insist on entering the most strenuous activity known to man, who am I stand in their way? They want to go to some of the least congenial, most dangerous, places on earth; so let them go to some of the least congenial, most dangerous, places on earth. Their feminist leaders, whom they follow to the end of idiocy (supposing there is such a thing), want them to get killed; so let them be killed. Since they want it so much, they have my blessing.

Still I want to use today’s post in order to sum up, once again, the various problems that such participation gives rise to.

* Recruitment Problems. As countless students, a great many of them female, have noted, no sooner do women join any group, institution or organization than the prestige of the organization in question starts declining. The outcome is difficulties in attracting first class manpower and a loss of fighting power. And so on in a vicious cycle that points nowhere but downward.

* Physical problems. Women on the average only have seventy percent of men’s lower body strength, fifty-five percent of upper body strength. Thinner, lighter bones make them more vulnerable to injuries and stress breaks. Shorter arms make them less adept at stabbing, whereas different elbow and pelvis structures makes it harder to throw objects and run respectively. The movements of many women are hampered by their pendulous breasts. A different anatomical structure makes them more vulnerable to dirt and infection. Smaller lungs and the resulting lower aerobic capacity mean they are less suitable for operating at great altitudes. The last-named problem in particular can also lead to amenorrhea (cessation of the periods) and sterility. As at least one military woman I used to know did develop these problems.

* Training problems. Given the physical differences, training women along with men, and holding them to the same standards, is impossible. Not holding them to the same standard is unfair. The former course will lead to any number of injuries, some of them crippling. The latter will turn women into a liability precisely at the place, and at the time, when such liability can least be afforded. It also means that female soldiers will enter combat without the kind of training their male colleagues have received. Which, of course, is more unfair still. In practice, the outcome is going to be lower standards for everyone. As, to use a particularly ludicrous example, when American and British commanders are ordered to balance readiness against lactation time.

* Problems of motivation. For as long as men have existed on earth, one of their key motives in joining the forces and fighting has always been to prove themselves as men. By definition, a group, or institution, or organization, which also has female members does not allow them to do so. As more women join, men move out. The more men move out, the more the powers that be are compelled to replace them with women. In this way recruiting women often achieves the opposite from what is intended, which is to alleviate a shortage of men.

* Problems of cohesion. For a unit to be cohesive, all its members must be treated equally. The physical characteristics of women, as well as the erotic ties that will necessarily form among men and women living closely together in the same unit, make doing so impossible. Anything else is an illusion. Or why else didn’t the Catholic Church establish co-ed monasteries?

* Sexual harassment problems. The recent campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq have given rise to a new problem: military-sexual trauma. Real or, in view of the possibility of obtaining compensation, fake. Whether a female soldier who is traumatized because a fellow soldier made a pass at her is fit to participate in the most strenuous and most dangerous activity on earth will not be discussed here. As things are, a situation has been created where many male soldiers fear and hate their female colleagues more than they do the enemy—and with good reason.

* Finally, and perhaps worst of all, any male member of the military who so much dares as hint at the existence of these and similar problems will find himself targeted by the thought police and disciplined. As a result the entire military, precisely the organization most dependent on mutual trust right unto death, is built on lies, lies, and more lies.

So far, the facts. Over the years, I have often been asked whether anything could make me change my views on this topic. For an answer, I turn to Karl Popper. Popper (1902-94) was an Austrian-born, Jewish, philosopher who made quite some contributions to his field. Among the most important was the idea that the validity of natural laws can never be conclusively proven; the reason being that, however numerous our experiments, at some unknown time and place there may always be an exception. Accordingly scientific progress, and with it an improved understanding of the world, is achieved by using experiments in order to invalidate “known” laws. In other words, by showing that they are false.

This kind of testing may work fine in the natural sciences, and indeed some scientists have gone on record as saying that, for them, it did just that. However, applying it do the social sciences is much more difficult. There are several reasons for this. First, as the above discussion also shows, there is normally more than one cause behind any effect. Second, cause and effect tend to be so closely intertwined as to be inseparable. Absent an “independent variable,” as the saying goes, tests are often impossible to design and carry out. Third, even if they can be designed and carried out, changing circumstances mean that they can never be repeated in exactly the same form. For Popper that means that most, perhaps even all, social science is not science but literature.

No two wars, no two campaigns, have ever been exactly alike. That is why measuring the performance of gender-neutral units against other kinds is impossible. I do, however, have in mind a modest proposal that could provide an answer. In many technical fields, one of the first steps in validating a new idea is to build a small-scale model and putting it to the test. So let there be formed, by way of a model, some mixed-gender football teams. And let them play both against all male teams and against mixed-gender ones. If they work—if the field is not quickly littered with badly injured female bodies—so should mixed combat units.

Setting up such an experiment, or test, would be easy, cheap, and, if so desired, repeatable. So why hasn’t it been done? Because we take sport much more seriously than we do war; and because everyone knows the outcome ahead of time.